Elton Julian is working on a plan to bring his DragonSpeed Racing sports car team to the Verizon IndyCar Series. The former open-wheel driver, whose team won the 2017 European Le Mans Series LMP2 championship and also competes in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 (non-hybrid) and LMP2 categories, has his sights set on a partial IndyCar season in 2019. St. Petersburg, Long Beach, the Indy Grand Prix and Indy 500, Portland and Sonoma are on the desired list of events to contest.
“The biggest interest to take DragonSpeed to IndyCar comes from the championship itself, and all the kudos go to what they’ve been achieving there,” Julian told RACER. “It’s a step up, and I do consider it a step up from LMP1. I want my team to continue to grow, and IndyCar has a lot of attractive things going for it.”
The Los Angeles native climbed the American and European ladder series in the 1990s and ranked as one of America’s brightest driving prospects. A winner in the highly competitive British Formula 3 championship, Julian moved onto F3000 and then a testing role with the Larrousse Formula 1 team before sports cars beckoned. In the years that followed, and with the formation of DragonSpeed in 2007, Julian began a slow migration from the cockpit to full-time team ownership.
As someone who strived to reach IndyCar or F1 as a driver, the chance to participate later in life as an entrant has remained an ongoing interest.
“I’m turning 44 which means I’m relatively young in the field of owners, and who wouldn’t want to be in Formula 1, but unless a billionaire shows up and wants to take us there, IndyCar is the more realistic place for us because we can make the decision now and on our own,” he added.
With a strong ownership group that provides internal funding for DragonSpeed’s racing endeavors, Julian says the team would enter IndyCar with a driver of its choosing. Former Renault F1 Young Driver academy member and current Pirelli F2 tire tester Ben Hanley, who serves as DragonSpeed’s lead pilot in its prototype endeavors, sits atop Julian’s short list for an IndyCar effort.
“I have a driver like Ben in our team, and he’s someone who I don’t think people fully understand how good he is,” he said. “Next year would be about showcasing the team’s ability, and then of course, go full time in 2020.
“Robert Wickens has been an inspiration for us. I’m still a driver at heart, and when I see what he can achieve in his first year with good equipment, it shows me it’s possible for a good team and a good new driver to have success in IndyCar.”
Since it was founded, DragonSpeed has raced in every major domestic and international sports car championship from its bases in Florida and France. An expansion into IndyCar would come as an addition to its WEC and ELMS programs.
“IndyCar is growing — I want to keep going in sports cars, but the thing I really want, which is new, is for us to be competitive in IndyCar,” he said.
“We have a commitment through June of next year with LMP1 in the WEC and LMP2 in the ELMS. But then the WEC switches to a winter championship, so it would be easy do both going forward.”
Julian says DragonSpeed’s existing team would be more than capable of looking after an IndyCar effort.
“I have a crew that’s amazing and a crew chief who’s a two-time Formula 1 champion with Williams, and we’re thinking we’re capable of doing more as a team,” he said. There are distinct limitations we have in LMP1 and we like the greater freedoms that are available in IndyCar. It’s really a performance decision.
“We compete in a world championship; we’re ready to fly anywhere and race. To do an IndyCar program is natural for us. We can learn quickly, apply what we know, and hopefully, put in a couple of impressive performances next year.”
With no pre-existing ties to Chevy or Honda, Julian is working to establish relationships on the engine supply front for an entry that would, if it comes to fruition, likely propel an open-wheel version of its popular Evel Knievel-inspired livery. He is also currently pursuing a technical alliance with an existing IndyCar team, which could dictate DragonSpeed’s alignment with one brand or the other.
“I’ve begun the process already and they’re the most important discussions to have,” he said. “Once an engine lease is in position, the rest becomes possible for us.”